NARVIK, Norway (CNN) — Fresh from medical school, Anna Bågenholm chose to do her residency in the Norwegian city of Narvik because of its spectacular mountain slopes. An expert skier, Bågenholm had gone off the trail with two other young doctors on a warm spring afternoon when she fell.
Bågenholm slid down a steep, icy gully and ended up submerged head first in a hole in the ice in a mostly frozen stream. Only her skis and Telemark boots and bindings protruded from the thick, opaque ice. As the 29-year-old struggled, her friends Marie Falkenberg and Torvind Næsheim began a frantic effort to free her, made impossible by a torrent of frigid spring runoff pouring over them into the hole where their friend was submerged.
They called for help, starting a chain of events that is now part of medical literature and local lore.
Bård Mikkalsen, a police lieutenant in Narvik at the time, took the call.
“I realized this was really a serious case,” said Mikkalsen, who has since retired. He scrambled a pair of rescue teams in Narvik, one from the top of the mountain, the other from the bottom. He also contacted the nearest rescue team in Bodø, nearly 200 miles away, but the Sea King helicopter had already left to transport a sick child. Watch more of Anna Bågenholm’s story »
“I told the operator, ‘You must send the helicopter to here, and you have only one minute to decide it. You have to call me back. The time is running out.’ ” The dispatcher turned the helicopter around.
Heading the rescue party from the top of the mountain, Ketil Singstad skied as fast as he could in the wet springtime snow to the spot where Bågenholm remained trapped under the ice.
Singstad said he and others tied a rope to her feet and tried unsuccessfully to pull her free, and the snow shovel and small saw they had brought were no match for the thick ice. Then he saw another rescuer heading up the mountain with a pointed gardening shovel. Read the rest of this entry »